Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Dutch in Taiwan

One of the goals of the Dutch East India Company was to establish a trading post in China. Although it largely failed to do this, it did establish a trading post in southern Taiwan, which it operated between 1624 and 1662. This allowed it to trade with Chinese merchants to whom it sold Japanese silver in exchange for Chinese silk and other products. Although the Dutch were in Taiwan for a relatively short period, the lack of a central authority (it lay outside Ming jurisdiction) and of a pre-existing language of wider communication such as Portuguese, meant that it was relatively easy to introduce their own language to the native Austronesian people. This was achieved in part by the work of Christian missionaries who established schools in Taiwanese villages. By 1656 it is reckoned that over a quarter of the native people understood more than simple prayers in Dutch. However, the spread of Dutch was halted by the attack of the Ming loyalist Zheng Chenggong (國姓爺) (Koxinga) in 1662. Nevertheless, there were reports by French Jesuit priests that native people could still read and speak Dutch in 1714, over 50 years after the Dutch defeat.

Further reading:
Ann Heylen, ‘Dutch Language Policy and Early Formosan Literacy (1624-1662’)’, in Ku Wei-ying ed., Missionary Approaches and Linguistics in Mainland China and Taiwan, (Leuven, Leuven University Press, 2001), pp. 199-252. 
Christopher Joby, 'The Dutch language in seventeenth-century Taiwan, Japan and Maluku: a case-study in language spread' (2018, forthcoming).

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